AirTalk for March 15, 2010

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Health care overhaul: counting down to a final count

As legislators prepare to vote on health care this week, the White House and Democratic leadership are sure it will pass, while opponents of the bill predict doom and gloom for the country, and analysts speculate about the majority party’s political future. Have we reached the home stretch for health care, guaranteeing Democrats plenty of political points heading into the midterms, or is this the final countdown to the ticking bomb’s explosion?
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Supreme Court will review background checks at JPL

The Supreme Court announced last week that it will review the handling of background checks for employees at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which could affect how checks are done for all federal government workers. Following a 2004 Homeland Security directive, more thorough background checks were ordered at the NASA-funded facility near Pasadena, allowing inquiries into an employee's finances, drug or alcohol use, and emotional stability. 28 CalTech employees under contract to JPL refused to take part in the process and were about to lose their jobs, until the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the firings, calling the checks too intrusive. How much can the government look into one's personal life, and should comprehensive checks be applied to all federal employees?
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How does free speech pertain to solemn occasions, and when should restrictions be imposed? In 2006, Fred Phelps and members of his fundamentalist Christian church protested with signs reading "God Hates You" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers"—and worse—outside the funeral of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq. While the Marine's father did not learn about the protest until he saw television coverage later, he sued Phelps and his followers for the emotional distress it caused. After a favorable verdict, the Fourth U.S. Court of Appeals threw out the case on free speech grounds. The ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, which plans to hear arguments this fall. How will the high court rule?
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Roomies without benefits

Should college students be able to live in the same dorm room with someone of the opposite sex? Some think so, and are choosing to live in a controversial new way known as gender-neutral housing. The trend has caught on in several California schools and in other colleges across the country. Is this the future of college dorm living? Should it be?
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The Routes of Man

Forget the station wagon—and Kerouac for that matter. Ted Conover’s road trips veer off the smooth blacktop in favor of truck convoys through Kenya, Beijing racing clubs, altitude-inducing Andean shipping routes. Conover explores how roads can bring resources, trade, and modernity to the most remote regions of the world along with disease and social strife. Larry Mantle rides shotgun with Pulitzer Prize-winner Ted Conover.
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